The moment of arriving at the conclusion that a marriage is over is often one of life’s worst moments. Grief, fear, anger, confusion, and many other emotions we don’t have words for often swirl through all of our being. In this emotional state, our Best Self— the part that can be trusted to make wise decisions for our future—is often in shock.  It may even feel like this Best Self has abandoned us.

Fear and Anger wrestle to take control in the vacuum. However, Fear and Anger do not make wise choices. They often bring out of Worst Selves if we allow them to lead us. Our Best Self, on the contrary, can feel the inevitable emotions of a divorce, but still remains true to our core values. Our Best Self also can be trusted to make important decisions as plan for the future, both for ourselves and our children. We bring our Best Self to the divorce through intentional decisions throughout the process:

Name Your Values

In spite of the pain and uncertainty of a divorce process, hold yourself accountable to your own value system. As you begin your divorce process, name your core values. Put them in writing where you will see them regularly.

Support System

Many people will have advice and opinions to share. Do not open yourself to all of them indiscriminately. Listen only to those voices that give you solid ground to stand on when everything else may feel uncertain— the voices that remind you that you are loved and worthy of being loved, help you stay present and attentive to your children, and hold you accountable to stay true to your values in the divorce process.

Feel Your Feeling

When emotions are suppressed or denied, they will come out in unhealthy and unhelpful ways. Give yourself time each day to actually feel your emotions in private or with a trusted friend. Allow yourself to cry, scream, punch a pillow. Feel it all and express it in a healthy way. Schedule time with a therapist who understands divorce.

Protect Your Energy

You only have a certain amount of physical and emotional energy to expend each day. Reserving energy to complete tasks necessary for a divorce may require taking time off work, asking trusted friends to help with children, and other changes to take nonessential tasks and demands off your plate for a time.

Collaborative Legal Process

The legal route taken for a divorce is often a significant contributor to bringing out our Best or Worse Selves. A collaborative divorce team is designed to facilitate a process that can draw out our Best Selves to make wise decisions for oneself and one’s family. Talk with a trained collaborative professional as you start the legal process.

Dr. Davenport is a marriage and family therapist in San Antonio, and owner of the Institute for Couple and Family Enhancement (www.icfetx.com). She is also trained to serve as a mental health neutral in Collaborative Divorce.

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